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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Kaczmarek

License to sin or legalism? Grace - the antidote to both false doctrines.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

—Galatians 5:16-26 NKJV

License to sin

Titus 2:11–12 AMPC says: “For the grace of God (His unmerited favor and blessing) has come forward (appeared) for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind. It has trained us to reject and renounce all ungodliness (irreligion) and worldly (passionate) desires, to live discreet (temperate, self-controlled), upright, devout (spiritually whole) lives in this present world.” This Scripture tells us that it is actually grace that teaches us to live upright lives and it trains us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly desires.

Romans 6:1-2 NKJV states, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” This Scripture is an encouraging Scripture, not a discouraging one. It means that the work of Christ was so complete that it totally changed us inside. Truly, we have become a new creation in Christ[1], truly we have been given a new nature, one that cannot go on sinning[2]. We have been given the gift of righteousness[3]. The purpose for saving us was to reconcile us to the Father in love[4] and to enable us to serve the living God acceptably, in holiness.[5] I think it was Spurgeon who said, “We were not saved in our sins or saved for our sins. . . but saved from our sins.” [6] Jesus put it this way: “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”[7]


We are called to fight the good fight of faith, and this battle against legalism is definitely a big part of it―that we overcome condemnation through our faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:3 AMPC says, “Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?” We have not been called to try but to believe. The Bible is clear that one is made right with God on the basis of his or her faith alone[8]. Works will follow and will stem from that faith[9], but it cannot be the other way around―we do not serve God to get saved but because we are saved.

Now, believe it or not, until we let go and let God, sin will have dominion over us. However, here is the amazing thing, if we will stop trying in our own strength and instead simply receive the grace of God freely through faith, we will experience freedom from the power of sin. How can I say that? Because of Romans 6:14 KJV: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” If you find yourself struggling again with an old sin and can’t seem to have the power to stop, ask yourself if you have brought yourself back under the law in that area. So we are only really empowered to live a victorious life when we are under grace. Under grace, we depend on the Holy Spirit and on the Word of God to transform us from the inside out.

I hope this whole “being saved by grace through faith”[10] makes a little more sense to you now. I would like to bring a word of caution: It is a dangerous thing to begin to switch our allegiance to religious rules and forsake the leadership of the Lord Himself (see Galatians 5:18; Galatians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 11:3). I say this because that is exactly the error I once committed when submitting to law. I therefore strongly encourage everyone to stay clear from legalism. When we know we are accepted through Christ, this very fact purifies our motives so that all that is left is faith working by love.[11] There, the law is fulfilled in us that believe[12]. Only the Blood of Christ can purge our conscience from dead works and set us free to serve the living God.[13] Only the grace of God can purify our motives so that our deeds are motivated by love instead of by selfish and self-centered evil motives.

To conclude

Max Lucado wrote in one of his books (though I do not have the exact wording with me, I believe I captured the essence of his statement here): “Salvation is like buttoning a vest, as long as you button the first button right, all of the other buttons will naturally follow in the right order.” Consequently if we don’t button the first button right, either by 1- falsely believing the grace of God is given to us so that we can continue in our sins (I am not implying that we are justified through our perfect performance, but rather I am saying that there is a need for a repentant heart which abhors sin and hungers for righteousness, a heart which pursues holiness), or by 2- forsaking the grace of God and seeking to be justified by law (by dos and don’ts), nothing else will work.

You already have everything it takes. God has given you everything that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him.[14] Every victory finds its source at the cross. Before your struggle with temptation and sin even started, Jesus already won the victory. He has perfected you already through His single offering of Himself on the cross.[15] Not that you and I have already reached perfection in our behaviors. Instead, we are simply in the process of becoming what we already are. All the while, we are righteous because we genuinely believe in Jesus and we expectantly trust Him to complete in us what He started.[16]

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

―Romans 1:16 NKJV

[1] See 2 Corinthians 5:17.

[2] See 1 John 3:9.

[3] See Romans 5:17.

[4] See Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:5.

[5] See Hebrews 9:14; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Ephesians 1:4-7.

[6] See also Matthew 1:21.

[7] John 8:34–36 NIV.

[8] See Romans 4:16.

[9] See James 2:20.

[10] See Ephesians 2:8-9.

[11] See Galatians 5:6.

[12] See Romans 8:4.

[13] See Hebrews 9:14.

[14] See 2 Peter 1:3 NKJV.

[15] See Hebrews 10:14.

[16] See Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

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